State v. Chambers, 38282-6-III

CourtCourt of Appeals of Washington
Writing for the CourtSTAAB, J.
PartiesSTATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent, v. MICHAEL E. CHAMBERS, Appellant.
Docket Number38282-6-III
Decision Date04 October 2022


An internet crime unit investigation in Idaho determined that an internet protocol (IP) address registered to Michael Chambers in nearby Asotin County was downloading and sharing depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Following a stipulated bench trial, Chambers was convicted of 24 counts of first degree possession, two counts of first degree dealing, and one count of second degree dealing in depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. He raises six issues on appeal. In the published portion of this decision, we reject Chambers' postverdict challenge to the adequacy of the information. We also hold that the presence and participation of Idaho police, at the request of a Washington deputy, to aid in the execution of the search warrant was not prohibited by statute and was otherwise authorized by common law.

In the unpublished portion of the decision, we hold that the search warrant was supported by probable cause and not overbroad. We find that the evidence was sufficient to support a finding of intent to distribute for purposes of counts 1, 2, and 3. We affirm imposition of the polygraph condition as part of Chambers' community custody condition, but strike the overbroad internet condition and remand for reconsideration of this sentencing condition.


We provide a brief overview of the facts and procedure here. Additional details are set forth in the discussion of each issue.

On September 30, 2017, and October 1, 2017, Detective Eric Kjorness of the Moscow Police Department Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) unit was using computer peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing software (often referred to as "BitTorrent") to conduct a broad sweep investigation of internet child pornography trafficking by accessing other BitTorrent users' open and available computer files. Clerk's Papers (CP) at 259. P2P file sharing is a method of communication available to internet users through the use of special software that links their computers through a network and allows for the sharing of digital files directly between users on the network. After obtaining the software by download, a user can set up file(s) on his/her computer to be shared with others running compatible P2P software.

BitTorrent, one type of P2P software, sets up its searches by keywords typically on torrent websites. The results of a keyword search are displayed to the user. The website does not contain the files being shared, only file[s] referred to as a "torrent." The user then selects a torrent file(s) from the results for download....The download of a file is achieved through a direct connection between the computer requesting the file and the computer(s) sharing the actual files (not the torrent file but the actual files referenced in the torrent file using any BitTorrent client.).

CP at 112. More than one file can be downloaded at once, and a user may download parts of files from more than one source computer at a time for integration.

This transfer is assisted by reference to a unique IP address expressed as four numbers separated by decimal points assigned to a particular computer during an online session. Every computer attached to the internet is assigned an IP address to assure proper direction of data. Most internet service providers control the range of assigned IP addresses. Some IP addresses are "static" long-term assignments and others have "dynamic" addresses that are frequently changed. CP at 117. "BitTorrent users are able to see the IP address of any computer system sharing files to them or receiving files from them. Investigators log the IP address which were sent files or information regarding files being shared." CP at 113. Using the "American Register of Internet Numbers," investigators can determine the internet service provider assigned that IP address. CP at 113. The specific computer assigned to the IP address can then be obtained from the internet service provider.

During his investigation, Detective Kjorness was able to identify a specific IP address that was downloading and sharing known images of depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The IP address was assigned to an internet provider, CableOne, out of Lewiston, Idaho. Responding to a subpoena, CableOne indicated the IP address was assigned to an account in Chambers' name with an Asotin County address. Based on his findings, Detective Kjorness contacted Detective Brian Birdsell of the Lewiston Police Department, who in turn contacted Detective Jackie Nichols of the Asotin County Sheriff's Office on October 30, 2017. Detective Nichols obtained a search warrant from the Asotin County Superior Court for Chambers' home in Clarkston, Washington.

On December 21, 2017, Detective Nichols executed the warrant with the assistance of law enforcement officers from several agencies including Detective Kjorness of the Moscow, Idaho, police department. Detective Nichols testified at the suppression motion that as a rural officer, she has generalized training, but to fill the void in her experience, she utilizes assistance from outside agencies. She invited Detective Kjorness to assist with the execution of the Chambers' warrant because the detective is an expert in this field.

During execution of the search warrant, Detective Kjorness questioned Chambers about his technical expertise and the presence of child pornography on his system and performed preliminary searches of two tower computers. Detective Nichols was present when Detective Kjorness spoke to Chambers. Chambers made significant incriminating statements during the execution of the search warrant particularly that he installed and used a BitTorrent program called "Azureus," downloaded sexually explicit images of children, saw them, and did not delete them because he was trying to help the police investigate. CP at 31-33. He knew that he should not be doing it. He did not turn anything over to police because he did not think that he had anything helpful.

Chambers claimed to not be sharing images but when confronted with a claim that he had made them available over his BitTorrent program, he responded that he "thought he 'had the outgoing totally shut down.'" CP at 38. He commented, "'Wow. My bad there.'" CP at 38. He admitted to going to online sources that he knew contained sexual images of children. He repeatedly denied distributing any images.

Detective Nichols delivered all of the digital devices seized from the home to Detective Birdsell for forensic analysis on December 26, 2017. The evidence was returned to Asotin County on May 9, 2018. Detective Birdsell identified a large quantity of sexually explicit images depicting children (6,314), and confirmed that Chambers' computer hard drives used by default the same MAC (media access control) address listed on the CableOne record.

Asotin County charged Chambers with two counts of "Dealing in Depictions of Minor Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct in the First Degree" and one count of "Dealing in Depictions of Minor Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct in the Second Degree" in violation of RCW 9.68A.050(1) and (2). CP at 1-3. He was also charged with 24 counts of "Possession of Depictions of Minor Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct in the First Degree" in violation of RCW 9.68A.070(1). CP at 4-27.

Chambers filed several motions to suppress evidence. Ultimately, the trial judge denied his motions to suppress evidence seized from the house, but granted the motions to suppress evidence seized from an adjacent shop that was not described in the affidavit or included in the search warrant. Following the court's decision, Chambers elected to proceed to a bench trial on stipulated facts.

The stipulated evidence included 28 digital files retrieved from computers located in Chambers' home. Explicit descriptions of these videos and images were provided by Detective Birdsell and included in the stipulated evidence. Chambers stipulated that Detective Birdsell's descriptions were accurate and sufficient.

Chambers was found guilty on all counts and sentenced. His judgment and sentence contained conditions prohibiting internet access and submission to polygraph tests. The precise wording is included below.

During his sentencing statement, Chambers admitted to intentionally setting his BitTorrent upload speed to slow, indicating his knowledge that he was disseminating, and described himself as a "hacker" capable of hex editing. CP at 330-31.

Chambers timely appealed.


In his first issue on appeal, Chambers challenges the sufficiency of the information charging him with 3 counts of disseminating, and 24 counts of possession of images depicting a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Chambers argues these offenses require not only that the State prove knowledge of the act (possession or disseminating) but also knowledge of the nature of the depictions. He contends that the charging information failed to allege the second scienter element. We review this legal challenge de novo. State v. Goss, 186 Wn.2d 372, 376, 378 P.3d 154 (2016).

An information must allege each essential element, statutory and otherwise, to apprise the accused of the charges against him or her and to allow for preparation of a defense. State v. Vangerpen, 125 Wn.2d 782, 787, 888 P.2d 1177 (1995). The information must do more than merely list the offense but it need not restate the precise language of the criminal statute. State v. Nonog, 169 Wn.2d 220, 226, 237 P.3d 250 (2010). "[I]t is sufficient if words conveying...

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